By Emilie Medland-Marchen, July 14 2016 —
It was a rainy day in Calgary, but that didn’t warrant a day off for the University of Calgary Dinos field hockey team.
Water splashed onto cleats and jerseys as the girls hit their sticks against the soggy turf. As ball after ball hurled towards the net on the south end of the field, it was clear that the bad weather wasn’t going to phase the team.
After all, there’s no room for time off when you’re competing against two of the top teams in the country.
The Dinos field hockey team has gone through a rough patch in recent years. From the outside looking in, it’s hard to view the 2015–16 season in a positive light. They posted a zero per cent win rate, losing all eight games they played between September and October.
It seems like it would be a hard season to come back from. But looks can be deceiving.
“The results didn’t come, but we made the improvements,” head coach Peter Taylor said. “We made big improvements getting closer to the opposition, to the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria. We had some close games where we only lost by one or two goals, whereas in previous years the girls have lost by five or six.”
The Dinos face some of the stiffest competition in the country. Their rivals, the UBC Thunderbirds and Victoria Vikes, are the only other teams in the Canada West division, and they’re also the two strongest CIS field hockey teams in Canada. The CIS championship finals last year pitted them against each other for the top prize in varsity athletics. Ultimately, the Vikes came out on top.
If the Dinos had the luxury of playing in the Ontario University Athletics conference where the competition is far less fierce, then they might have a shot at winning their way to a championship final. But out west, there’s no room for error.
“If we were playing in a bigger competition, we would definitely win games,” said Taylor. “Last year we narrowly lost to UBC and UVic, and they were both in the CIS finals playing each other.”
Fifth-year veteran Jessica Britton posted 140 minutes for the team last year as a key defender. A seasoned veteran, Britton has played under two different coaches with the Dinos. Heading into her fifth year, she feels prepared to secure wins.
“On paper [last season] may have not been a great success to a lot of people looking in,” Britton explained. “But the previous year we struggled a lot more, and last year we saw a lot of improvement in scoring against teams in the Canada West. We’re competing with them now.”
To jumpstart that improvement, Taylor will send his team to Holland to train with some of the best in the world.
“Holland at the moment, the women are number one in the world,” said Taylor. “To play against them is a great experience to improve our level and to build us more as a team.”
In daily training, the team is still learning how to win against two of the strongest teams in Canadian field hockey, but Taylor isn’t worried.
“We have our focus points that we have to work on,” said Taylor. “And it’s very much that we have nothing to lose. So we put everything we have into the game.”